Guest Column: What You Can Learn From Open Access
For Flat World Knowledge, the challenge was to create a 21st-century textbook publishing model that would eliminate cost and access barriers, and legally make high-quality content available to whoever wanted it—including for free on the Web—and to do it in a way that generates revenue for the publisher and a higher royalty rate for authors, as well as provides a positive experience for customers (professors) and end users (students).
The 4 Rs of Open
We began by keeping what works in the traditional model: signing top authors and using an industry-tested product-development process and rigorous peer review. Then we went off-road by publishing the original works under the family of Creative Commons open licenses. Based on the idea of sharing information, not restricting it, these open licenses allow authors to change the copyright restrictions of their work from "all rights reserved" to "some rights reserved."
Open textbooks, then, are those licensed to provide users with legal rights to use the content in ways not normally permitted under the law. Importantly, these rights are provided for free.
The primary permissions open textbooks are concerned with are expressed in the 4Rs:
1. Reuse: the right to use and reuse content in its unaltered form (e.g., make a backup copy of the content or give a public reading).
2. Revise: the right to adapt, modify or alter the content (e.g., translate it into another language or adjust the reading level).
3. Remix: the right to combine the original or revised content with other content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup).
4. Redistribute: the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend or publish the content on a P2P network).